Woman injured after being struck by SF hit-and-run driver, trapped under autonomous car, Cruise says

ByLena Howland, Tim Johns, Suzanne Phan KGO logo
Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Woman struck by SF hit-and-run driver, trapped under AV: Cruise
A woman is injured in San Francisco after being hit by a human-driven car that sent her in front of a Cruise autonomous vehicle, the company says.

SAN FRANCISCO -- A woman is seriously injured after being struck by a human driver that "launched" her in front of a Cruise autonomous car in San Francisco Monday night, the robotaxi company said.

Police say at 9:31 p.m., officers responded to 5th and Market Streets and discovered a female pedestrian trapped under a Cruise vehicle.

San Francisco Fire Department says they had to use the "jaws of life" to lift the car off of the woman, who was trapped underneath.

The victim was transported to SF General Hospital with "multiple traumatic injuries," according to SFFD.

In a statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, Cruise explained that another driver hit the woman, sending her into the path of the Cruise, before leaving the scene.

Here is the statement:

"At approximately 9:30 p.m. on October 2, a human-driven vehicle struck a pedestrian while traveling in the lane immediately to the left of a Cruise AV. The initial impact was severe and launched the pedestrian directly in front of the AV.
The AV then braked aggressively to minimize the impact. The driver of the other vehicle fled the scene, and at the request of the police the AV was kept in place.

Our heartfelt concern and focus is the wellbeing of the person who was injured and we are actively working with police to help identify the responsible driver."

Tuesday morning, ABC7 News talked with a spokesperson for Cruise who shared some video of the crash in question.

VIDEO: Driverless Cruise car struck by SF firetruck, injuring passenger, company says

Cruise says that one of their driverless cars went through a green light and was hit by a San Francisco firetruck on the way to an emergency scene.

While they would not let ABC7 News record the video as to not compromise the police investigation, it showed that the victim was hit by another car first.

The impact of that crash was so severe, the victim was thrown into the way of the Cruise vehicle before she was run over.

Cruise officials said their vehicle operated as designed and started braking moments before impact.

Police are investigating the incident.

"At the very minimum, we are canvassing the area for witnesses, for surveillance video, for any video that may have been captured by any personal individuals, as well as the technology that's utilized in the vehicle itself," SFPD Officer Robert Rueca said.

MORE: Why Cruise is keeping half of its driverless fleet off the streets of SF

Police added that this is a first for them and they have not seen a crash involving injuries this serious with an autonomous car up until Monday night.

Sam Abuelsamid is an automotive technology analyst with Guidehouse Insights.

He says that automated driving systems are constantly adding data.

"Part of the doing an automated driving system is the detection. Having to use the sensors to detect what's around you -- predicting what all the other road users are going to do in the next several seconds" said Abuelsamid.

He says engineers try to plan for every possible scenario -- even ones that involve collisions with pedestrians.

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"There's literally an infinite number of potential scenarios that could occur. This is certainly one of those," said Abuelsamid.

Abuelsamid says a driverless car most likely couldn't have avoided the collision on Monday night.

"Sometimes things happen so quickly that there is simply nothing you can do," he said. "No matter how well you are tracking all the other road users around you."

Cruise says its car started braking before striking the pedestrian. AV experts say that doesn't change the facts.

"It's basic physics. When you have a 4,000-pound vehicle, it inherently is going to take a certain amount of time to stop," said Abuelsamid.

The SFPD Traffic Division is leading the investigation. Anyone with information is asked to contact SFPD at 415-575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411 and begin the message with SFPD.

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